Ask Us: Christmas light recycling still an option

Q: Hey! Ask Us Guy! I’ve got a question: Can you toss Christmas light strands that no longer work into your recycle bin to be recycled? MRCI, I believe, used to take them and recycle them. Do they still do that?

I’ll hang up and listen to the response. …

A: Ask Us Guy, Mrs. Ask Us Guy and the Ask Us Kids have consistently strung lights on a trio of arborvitae trees in their front yard in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Over time, fewer and fewer of the lights actually lit up, but they continued to string them, partly out of tradition and partly out of the hope the neighborhood deer would be less interested in eating the trees if they kept getting a mouthful of plastic-coated wire.

With last year’s rough winter, the deer finished off the trees, and Ask Us Guy now has a bag full of old Christmas lights sitting in his garage, looking for a final resting place.

First off, you absolutely can NOT put the lights in your recycling bin. Not only will they not be recycled, they can cause all sorts of machine-tangling problems at the automated facility where recyclable materials are sorted.

MRCI recycled holiday lights in the past, but the organization is no longer doing that.

In previous years, Ace Hardware on Victory Drive accepted Christmas lights for recycling, but that store closed last year. And the Lowe’s chain of home-improvement stores recycles lights and other holiday decorations, but it also has shuttered its Mankato store. Short of driving to the Ace Hardware in St. Peter, Ask Us Guy wasn’t sure what to do with his failed light strings.

Turns out at least two locations still collect the strings. There’s a designated bin for holiday lights at the Intergovernmental Center, 10 Civic Center Plaza, in Mankato (City Hall), and there’s another bin outside the Blue Earth County Property and Environmental Resources Office on the second floor of the Historic Courthouse.

Residents of all of Blue Earth County’s smaller towns will also be able to drop off their old lights for one week next month at their local city hall. That program will be available during the hours each city hall is typically open during the week of Jan. 6-10.

Do not, however, try to drop off lights at the Blue Earth County Recycling Center in LeHillier, said Molly Kjellesvig, who works on waste and recycling for the county. As with recyclables picked up at the curbside, household recyclables dropped at the Recycling Center go to a materials recovery facility in the metro area, and Christmas light recycling is a specialized process the MRF does not do.

There is one other option – the Blue Earth County Household Hazardous Waste Facility on Summit Avenue. During the winter months, that facility is open only by appointment, however, so residents would have to schedule a drop-off time by calling 304-4381, Kjellsvig said.

Q: Hi. I’m calling the Ask Us Guy because I’ve got a question. There was an article in the paper about the city deer hunt costing $2,000 to $3,000 a year and mentioned the city buying a deer stand.

I know somebody who’s been in the hunt in the city since it began. I’d like to know where this deer stand is. Nobody in the hunt seems to know anything about it. I’m just questioning where they’re buying deer stands and why nobody knows anything. And how come it costs so much to run the hunt? There was no real information on where the money was going.

A: Mankato didn’t buy a deer stand, said Mankato Deputy City Manager Alison Zelms, who was the Mankato official quoted in The Free Press story about in-city deer hunts in the region.

Zelms said there must have been a misunderstanding by the reporter who wrote the story, which stated that the city spends $2,000 to $3,000 annually for its archery hunt and listed the purchase of a deer stand as an example of where the money is spent.

“We don’t own a deer stand,” Zelms said, adding that the budget is almost exclusively the staff time spent on the hunt. “It’s just the basic cost of coordinating the program. We have two people that spend some time coordinating the locations of the deer stands, making sure they are meeting their requirements, etc. But we have very little cost of supplies and equipment.”

Staff time is required because hunters face a fairly lengthy list of standards and requirements. The regulations grew in length two years ago after a hunter wounded a deer, which staggered onto private property, leaving a blood trail across a hillside where children were sledding.

The regulations now include strict setbacks between deer stands and neighboring private property. Hunters must also pass annual proficiency tests with their bows, label the arrows with ID numbers, check in and check out with the city each time they hunt, and get written permission from neighboring property owners in some instances.

In last year’s hunt, a total of 44 deer – the most ever for the 16-year-old hunt – were taken by 32 hunters. Those 44 did not include the doe and two yearlings who rudely devoured Ask Us Guy’s trees.

Those three and the remainder of the Mankato deer population will need to keep a low profile for 10 more days. The 2019 hunt ends at midnight Dec. 31.

Contact Ask Us at The Free Press, P.O Box 3287, Mankato, MN 56002. Call Mark Fischenich at 344-6321 or email your question to; put Ask Us in the subject line.


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